Study: Reality TV shows can affect teen behavior

New study looks at teenage girls who watch TV shows

Author: April Molina, Investigative Reporter, amolina@ksat.com
Published On: Feb 10 2012 03:38:59 PM CST   Updated On: Feb 10 2012 05:45:50 PM CST
SAN ANTONIO -

From fights on the "Real Housewives" to 72-day marriages on "Keeping Up With The Kardashians," reality television can be a powerful influence for the young girls who watch it. 

"I like Snooki a lot because people say I tend to look like her," said 7th grader Erika Melendez. 

It's a similar story for 8th grader Zoe Casseday. 

"I like to watch the Real World," she said. 

And from 8th grader Alexa Thurwalker comes this reality check, "All they do is talk trash about each other."

Ask most teenage girls and they'll tell you they watch some reality TV, and it's a trend some parents don't necessarily like. 

"The shows they watch, I think, teach them how not to behave," says parent Martha Oakes.

The Girl Scout Research Institute surveyed girls who regularly watch reality TV., and those who don't. 

They interviewed 1,100  11 to 17 year olds, and found that regular reality TV viewers accept a higher level of drama, aggression and bullying in their lives. 

Some professionals say it's a dangerous trend.

"We are deceiving them. We are teaching them values that are really basically false by and large," said psychiatrist Harvy Rosenstock. "We do a disservice."

A total of 78 percent of those who watch reality TV shows regularly think gossiping is a normal part of relationships between girls -- compared to only 54 percent who were not regular reality TV watchers. 

"When you're watching a TV show that implies that these are the real successful people in our society, if you really want to win the game socially, you're going to have to mimic these people," says Rosenstock.

The survey did find an interesting note, however. 

Reality TV viewers displayed more confidence, and considered themselves mature, smart, funny and outgoing. They were also more likely to see themselves as role models to other girls, and to aspire to leadership roles.

If yor're worried about your teens watching too much reality TV, the Girl Scout Institute recommends turning off the TV, and cooking together as a family. 

The Institute also recommends encouraging your daughter to focus on her inner beauty, and for parents to focus on the healthy relationships in their own life.